There's always a soap opera at the Illinois statehouse, but this year's version is a bit crazier than usual.

Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan is killing off Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich's proposals left and right.

The concept of "racial slippage" is back, and it's being misapplied to Illinois.

Racial slippage describes a situation of minority candidates doing worse than the polls predict. According to the theory, some white voters lie to pollsters and tell them they support a black candidate because they might be embarrassed to admit that they aren't going to vote for an African American.

With all the breathless coverage of the Illinois Gaming Board's decision to put a riverboat in Rosemont, a big story has been completely ignored.

Why did the board's staff twist so many facts, ignore so many problems, and neglect to look into serious mob ties in order to put a casino next door to Rosemont, in Des Plaines?

You don't have to look much further for proof that staff favored Des Plaines than its selection of the casino-bidding finalists.

For well over two years, John Daley's 11th Ward organization has carried state Representative Patricia Bailey (D-Chicago) on its back. Daley is Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley's brother.

Bailey's mother was one of a very small handful of influential African Americans who endorsed Rich Daley during his first successful mayoral race in 1989.

Last fall, Governor Rod Blagojevich took a brief but nasty beating in the Chicago media.

Thick smoke from a super-hot fire killed nine people in a Loop office high-rise. One of the building's managers, Elzie Higginbottom, was a Blagojevich campaign contributor, and when the city and the county dragged their collective investigatory feet, the media demanded that the governor step in.

Illinois Bell, Ameritech, SBC. Whatever you call it, the phone company's name appears to be mud with at least some Illinois voters.

Last year, you might remember, Texas-based mega-corporation SBC muscled a bill through both the Illinois House and Senate that opponents claimed would double some local phone bills.

During the 2002 campaign, gubernatorial candidate Rod Blagojevich traveled to Vandalia, in southern Illinois, and spoke to a large crowd of union members. Most of those union members worked at the local state prison.

I'm going to talk about Blair Hull, but I have to tell you a story first. Nobody thought Terry Link had a chance back in 1996. Link was running for an Illinois Senate seat in a Republican-leaning, Lake County district.

Governor Rod Blagojevich won a lot of legislative victories last year.

He rammed through a $10-billion pension-funding plan, increased taxes and fees, enacted several bills that protected workers, and killed an attempt to expand gambling.

Illinois Senator John Sullivan (D-Rushville) was the biggest surprise winner of the 2002 election. Political observers are still scratching their heads at how the Democrat defeated popular Republican Senator Laura Kent Donahue in a Republican-leaning district.

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